An anti-gay campaigner who made headlines last year when he argued before the Supreme Court of Canada for the right to distribute hateful literature about gay and lesbian people is at it again.
Bill Whatcott was briefly arrested on March 6 after Calgary police received complaints about flyers distributed in neighbourhoods near the University of Calgary.
The Calgary Herald reported that one resident called police after receiving a flyer that included anti-gay statements and pictures of genitalia infected with a sexually transmitted infection.
Whatcott did not speak to Xtra for this story, but according to a posting by him on the website Free North America, Calgary police “put me in handcuffs and told me I was being put into preventive detention, as my flyers might cause someone to become violent.”
He also claims that police threatened to have him institutionalized in a mental hospital. Constable Bryan Denison of the Calgary Police Service diversity team confirms Whatcott was arrested for breach of peace and taken into police custody.
“The problem was that there were people in the neighbourhood getting pretty irate with the material being handed out by Mr Whatcott,” Denison says. “In fear for his safety, he was arrested and taken out of the area.”
Denison adds that there is “no mention whatsoever of taking him to an institution” in the arresting officers’ report.
Whatcott writes that one person “threatened extreme violence” because of his flyers. And in another case, he writes, a woman identified as a lesbian confronted him and accused him of being homophobic.
“I told her she could complain to anyone she wished and I wasn’t phobic of her at all, rather I just believe her lifestyle is harmful to her and displeasing to God, and her homosexual agenda is harmful to society,” Whatcott wrote.
Denison says police released Whatcott shortly after his arrest because “there were no grounds under which he could be charged with a criminal offence.” He adds that Whatcott could face future criminal charges and therefore encourages anyone who receives one of Whatcott’s flyers to contact police.
In his online post, Whatcott writes that despite his arrest on March 6, he and an associate subsequently “truth-bombarded hundreds of mailboxes” south of the University of Alberta. He wrote that he planned to continue distributing flyers in Calgary until he exhausted his 5,000-copy supply.
“Parents and children need an advocate willing to speak the truth on these important moral issues and who will challenge homofascist government censorship,” Whatcott wrote.
Whatcott received national exposure last fall when he appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge the hate speech section of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. In 2005, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal fined him $17,500 for distributing hate literature in the province. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned the decision in 2010. The case before the Supreme Court of Canada is still pending.
Whatcott, who lives in Saskatchewan, was relatively quiet until recently. Denison says Calgary police haven’t been contacted about him since 2009. According to Whatcott’s online postings, he became active again to protest changes to Alberta’s Education Act. Home schooling advocates and conservative Christian groups claim elements of the bill, requiring all teaching materials to satisfy the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act, would infringe on their religious beliefs.
Whatcott claims he is a former gay sex worker and drug addict who converted to Christianity. He has railed against gay people by picketing and distributing flyers in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa; has hosted a “heterosexual pride day” in Regina; and has run for mayor in Edmonton.
A licensed practical nurse, Whatcott was suspended and fined $15,000 by the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (SALPN) in 2005 for picketing outside a Regina Planned Parenthood clinic. The Supreme Court later found that the SALPN had violated Whatcott’s right to freedom of expression.